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Testimony Begins in Stop & Shop Zoning Case

Hearing has been continued to June 4, when the public will get to ask questions of engineers.

After months of delays, The Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment began hearing engineering testimony in the Stop & Shop application on Monday night, but after just one witness, ran out of time and continued the hearing until June 4.

The physical site engineer, Michael Fowler, explained how the driveways onto Millburn Avenue would work and how the development of the 69,000-square-foot grocery store proposed for the empty Saks Fifth Avenue building might impact the street.

Fowler said the county has already approved the widening of Millburn Avenue to accommodate a light at Millburn Avenue and Baltusrol Way to allow for a left turn lane into and out of the parking lot and onto Baltusrol Way.

The other driveway on Millburn Avenue would be for delivery trucks only and would not allow for an right turn exit out of the property because that would put trucks headed in the direction of downtown Millburn.

However, if the loading dock area is full, no trucks would be allowed in, and lawyers for ShopRite, who oppose the construction of the Stop & Shop, suggested that trucks would then be sent traveling eastbound into downtown.

Millburn is only involved in this project because of a 20-foot strip of land that includes the right-of-way for the driveways. And because the two driveways would empty out onto Millburn Avenue, residents are concerned about what that would mean for safety, as well as their quality of life.

Millburn & Springfield Residents for Traffic Safety oppose the supermarket because they think the traffic would impact the township in the following ways: delay emergency vehicles and pose a risk to pedestrians, many of whom are students at St. Rose of Lima Academy and Millburn High School.

They also worry about noise and the hassles that go with that much increased traffic.

The project has already been approved by Springfield and the accompanying roadwork and site plans have been approved by Essex County and the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Morris Avenue, where the store’s other driveway would connect. Gail Price, the lawyer for Stop & Shop, has said she does not think Millburn has jurisdiction in this case and she should not have to be going through these hearings in Millburn.

But Gail Fraser, the Zoning Board of Adjustment attorney disagrees.
“The board has jurisdiction over the 20-fot strip of land in Millburn,” she said. “That physical location of this strip of land gives this board jurisdiction.”

It is also that 20-foot strip of land that is holding up the project. It will include a sidewalk that goes all the way to the curb and landscaping that will call for the removal of six trees and the addition 12 different trees. The strip of land was given to Millburn in land deal with Springfield that shifted the boundary line by 20 feet back in 1957.

“If that boundary shift hadn’t occurred, we wouldn’t even be here,” Price said.

 The case has been going on for 16 years, first with resistance and a court battle in Springfield and now in Millburn. Meanwhile the store sits empty and some nearby business owners would like to see something go in that would bring people to area.

The June 4 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. , and the public will get a chance to question the engineer.

Susan1 March 20, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I shudder to think what this town will look like in about 20 years - McMansions on every lot, no matter how small; every square inch of the town built up; heavy traffic everywhere; large stores. If I wanted to live in Manhattan, I'd be there. I came here for open space and peaceful suburban life. I hope to be long gone before MSH is completely destroyed by development.
MarkDS March 20, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Except of course the entire Stop & Shop store would not even be in Millburn. Only the street onto which vehicles would enter and exit is.
Nantz March 20, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Susan, get a map and put your nose down you snob!
John Fonseca March 20, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Ok, right... the actual Stop and Shop store and parking would be in Springfield and its connection to the world would be in Millburn. So, then Springfield gets the tax revenue and and Millburn get the traffic, specifically the truck traffic in an already congested location. Note that S&S will not be routing any truck traffic down the driveway that exits on to Morris Ave between Taco Bell and TD Bank, which is of course in Springfield. I also don't think that the essence of what Susan1 is saying is that off the mark. Simply from the perspective of protecting property value it makes sense for the town to not be overdeveloped. If Short Hills becomes similar to Springfield, then why would anyone pay more for a house in SH when they can get something similar in Springfield for a lot less, perhaps even with a bigger lot? Regardless of what Susan1's motivation is for making her statements, from a purely financial perspective they do make sense, at least to me. The problem that a lot of residents have is the traffic and the safety concerns that go along with it.
Susan1 March 20, 2012 at 08:58 PM
@Mark: we need more traffic on Millburn Avenue like we need holes in our heads. And with several other grocery stores in the immediate vicinity, I can't imagine we need another so desperately. @ Nantz - um, yeah, whatever....
Susan1 March 20, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Why has my statement been attributed to snobbery? If anything, I am taking an "anti-snob" perspective. When I first moved here 15 years ago, there were plenty of modest homes allowing for a mix of income levels. Now many of those modest homes are being knocked down to build huge expensive homes, making this a town for only the ultra rich. That's the antitheses of snobbery.
M OKeef March 20, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Why does anyone pay more for a house in SH now as opposed to Springfield -- quality of the schools and being able to walk/better commute to the train. That won't change if this grocery store opens. And no one can do anything about the fact that 98% of this property is in Springfield and they will get the taxes but agree if they do open it trucks should use that road which lets out onto Morris Turnpike
Millers'79 March 21, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Ahhh Stop and Shop again. Do we remember the moans and groans of Fresh Fields(Whole Foods). Irony is same folks moaned when Whole Foods announced the move to Vauxhall, then hoping for Trader Joe's. I for one am on board for S&S. It is better than the vacant lot and Kings, and the two Shop Rite's need competition. Watch how they invest in their stores once S&S opens.
mom March 24, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Miller79, the "same folks" aren't moaning about this. This has to do with the fact that Short Hills area will be affected, not so much Millburn. That said, I agree, I welcome the S & S, and having another shopping choice. All Shop Rites in the area sorely need updating, which is why they and Kings don't want the competition.
Hedley March 24, 2012 at 04:13 PM
The fact that attorneys for Kings and Shop Rite are even allowed to participate in the hearings is laughable.

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